Plum vinaigrette (salad dressing)

plums poised and ready to make salad awesome

Super simple summer fare.  A handful of little red plums get jazzed up into this beautiful drizzler.

I used a dressing jar for easy measurements.  These you can find at Goodwill or Salvation Army for maybe 50 cents.  They were big in the 80's when those dressing packets were all the rage with moms who also seemed to be addicted to Crystal light.  Those dressings always had some lying name that sounded sweet and wholesome but was really just loaded with MSG.  Good Seasons or Good Seasonings... or Super Longlife-if-you-Buy-Our-Crap powder.  I dunno.  But the JAR is helpful.  On it there is a mark for Vinegar, Water (I never use that measurement for water but instead the herbs, spices, wine or fruit preserves measurement), and Oil.  You then can blend up to your heart's content without much going awry. 

If you don't have one.  That's okay.  A container that you can reliable close tight so that you can shake it vigorously is in order.  Like a mason jar or a little jam jar.

The measurements if you don't have the specialized jar are:

1 heaping tsp raw sugar or vegan sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt or 1-2 pinches
5 one inch plums or 3 two inch or so on... (this mix is for the sweet-tart blushy colored plums so you may not need sugar at all if they're very sweet)
1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar (not Bragg's brand, others that contain the mother may be fine)
1/2 Cup Olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt or 1-2 pinches
1/4 Cup of sweet sherry or a favorite red wine
1-2 TBSP plum preserves (this will make the vinaigrette a tad more instantly infused so you wont have to wait 1-3 weeks for the infusion)

Chop up plums and add those last to the mix and shake vigorously. Done, you're amazing.
This is delicious on cole slaw instead of whatever wet white stuff some folks like, and greens.  It doesn't end there, but I'm tired can you take over?

Coming to a mouth near you...


Potlicker editorial: Differences disappear the closer you are to the land

My dad was from a truly different generation.  Born in 1914 in a small mining town in Arizona, he endured the great depression, the second world war and many other hardships.  He had a very strong pragmatism that developed from his upbringing, and so did most of his friends from the same era.  Through his later years, my dad returned to the cowboy life he loved so much throughout his youth, and I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with him on his ranch during the hot Arizona summers (my parents separated when I was very young).

When I was younger, I never really thought about my dad's political bent.  By today's standards, he was probably a staunch conservative, as he was fiscally restrained, believed in hard work over hand outs and owned more guns than you could count.  But, somehow, he didn't seem closed minded or judgmental about the way other people lived.  When he spoke with people, it was usually about his horses or cows, the weather, the past, or some thing that might have happened that day while he was out on the land.  He had some amazing stories, and I would listen to them with complete attention.  That was another thing about my dad -- when he spoke, you listened because it mattered.

As an adult, I have been steadily trying to build my life so that I may live much closer to the land, as my dad did, and even more as my ancestors did.  I have been learning and doing as much as I can to be self reliant, understand natural systems and the ways people made due when food or water was scarce.  This has in turn lead me to read all sorts of blogs, forums and magazines with information about primitive living, homesteading, native crafts and traditions, food preservation and so on.  A curious side effect of this effort was discovering that people of all walks of life are interested in going back to the land, and that the closer you get to actually doing it, the less things like conservative and liberal seem to matter.   Living a subsistence life means preoccupying yourself with things of substance like meals, conservation of money and natural resources, family, and learning.  The more primitive the life, the less room there is to think or even know about fads, celebrities and even politics.  The land becomes a unifying force for people and when you depend on it for your survival, it's hard to tell a hippie from a CEO.  In nature, all people are equal and nature always holds the winning hand.  Civilization gives us the impression that we are above this truth, that we can conquer nature through our science and innovation, but this fallacy is contradicted every time a natural "disaster" happens.  Nothing we have created can withstand these forces.  In antiquity, people knew this and respected its awesome power.

Now, we're at a critical juncture in human history where increasing resource scarcity coupled with high population density is straining the very complex systems we have put in place to hold ourselves above the ever-rising effluence we have created.   Once those systems break down in earnest, we will be thrust violently into the world we're trying to escape.  When the store shelves are empty and there's no gasoline, what are people going to eat?  At that desperate moment, a Monet painting becomes less valuable than a crust of bread, and celebrity is nothing but a reminder of the hubris we once had.  Politics evaporate as well, and what is left are human ethics forged in the moment.  Do you share your food with the starving person next to you, or not?  Do you teach those around you what wild edibles are available, or do you keep it to yourself so it is not consumed by everyone else?  In moments of crisis, ethics and ideals are not generalized in any way.  They are hyper-specific and based on circumstance.  The differences that divide our country now would disappear in a heartbeat if the systems we depend on stopped working, and those who would seek to control our behavior know this.  They depend on it.

Imagine what life would be like if people were simply living and focused on things of substance instead of what Brad and Angelina were wearing.  I believe our future may well hinge on this proposition.  If we don't take a step back and work intently to rejoin the land and work with it instead of against it, we are going to incur a level of human suffering that has never been seen before.  A homestead or natural living space is a gift to future generations.  A nuclear power plant or dammed river is a curse to them.  Will our legacy to our children's children be Swiffers or the knowledge necessary to make a broom from what wild things grow around them?  Will they be expert video gamers or have the self reliance to find food anywhere they go?  Which is the greater gift?

On the land, we are all united.  On the land, we are all one people trying to not only survive but thrive.  And, contrary to what civilization tells us, thriving is not owning a sports car or a swimming pool; it's knowing that no matter what -- you can provide for yourself and your loved ones, and that future generations will thank you instead of shaking their heads in disbelief at your shortsightedness.

The author of this Potlicker editorial is Jason DuMars, musician, writer, artist and activist.  He has been an active supporter and promoter of local, seasonal eating, community development and sustainable living.  In 2007 he was a leader in the groundbreaking "World Without Oil" alternate reality game and his contributions have been included in school curriculum associated with the project.   Jason is usually behind the camera for Potlicker posts.


Peach gaspacho

Before mixing together blended ingredients

I like to force on summer usually but this one has snuck up on me.  May wasn't cutting it, June just didn't feel right and then all of a sudden I was sweaty and irritated but berries started to appear. AAAAH There you are summer.  I was mad at you but I can forgive you for all the fruit you bring.  Until I'm sick of that too and then we will be on the outs again.

Gaspacho doesn't take much effort at all.  Best of all it doesn't take much cooking at all.  Recipes without the stove are a favorite.  This one requires light stove top activity.  When you use mango, peaches or any delicate fruit it is best to let it sit overnight and have the fruitiness infuse the entire soup.

This recipe yields approximately 5 cups.  It fed 4 people with veggie and fruit sides well.  It will feed 2 people like kings.

  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 3 ripe peaches (the sweeter, peachier the better)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 Medium onion
  • handful of cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • sometimes I'll add some pepper seeds to up the heat
  • fresh zucchini slices on the side
  • avocado slices on the side
You can add garlic if you wish at any point (simmer it with the tomatoes if you want it a little more mellow) I did not this last time, and it was delicious without it too.

 Cut tomato in their middles the top and bottom facing out and the side on the cutting board and the knife slicing the other side which should be facing up.  By slicing it in half this way you can expel the seeds with one light squeeze.  I'm not too nutty about the seeds remaining, survivors will be eaten at no real cost.  But it is best to not have a very seedy gaspacho.  Roughly chop tomato pieces and put into a pot with a little olive oil enough to prevent sticking and cook just until the tomato has softened and turned bright red-orange.

Finely chop onion and jalapeno, rough cut cilantro and peaches.  These all go into the food processor until small bits remain (which is fine).   I pour everything into a container with a sprinkle of salt and put it in the fridge.

When you are getting ready to eat it just take it out of the fridge for an hour or two and serve it up with avocado slices and big fat salad. This soup travels really well for potlucks. Crostini is awesome with it. Toasted tortilla wedges too.


Coracles, Bull boats, Curraghs and Currachs

I've been obsessed with the idea of building a tiny watercraft for one, light enough for a hiker to manage the load on their own.  I found out about Coracles and fell in love.  I then found that the Plains Indians of North America once made very similar craft called bull boats.  They'd leave the tail remaining to keep in the back of the boat and use it to tether two or more together having the lead one pulling the others.  Ingenious!

In my search I found there was not a page for bull boats on facebook so I made one and as I find builders or other videos I will share them on that page.  For now I have some fun links for those interested following.

The facebook Bull Boat page.

The Coracle society.

Conwry Richards is awesome and so is his site.

Conwry made the hide coracles for the Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.

Peter Badge's awesome book Coracles of the World

This one with Ray Mears is the best I could find of how to construct a bull boat.  Pretty incredible.


Potlicker editorial: The (Portland) Farmer's Market and the inevitable drift toward profit

Over the years, I've seen the formation of countless idealistic groups that have a great, undeniable and seemingly impossible goal to reach.  These are usually small, dedicated groups of like-minded people who feel that with collective effort their goal is attainable regardless of the odds or obstacles that stand in the way.  This is David versus Goliath and all the other underdogs fighting the system.  Along the way though, the internal politics and personalities of organizations tend to become the focus instead of the thing they were originally organized to do.  Let me repeat this, because it's important.  Organizations tend to shift focus from their organized purpose to the organization itself.  This effect is especially pronounced in groups that have commerce woven into their fabric.   Internal politics, conflicting directions, megalomania, greed and all of the other negative social dynamics that can develop in any collective of people seem to fester in the most well-meaning organizations, and I believe the passion that brings those people together is ultimately the thing that destroys not only the intent of the goal, but eventually the organization itself.  This is a classic example of something's greatest strength also being its greatest weakness.

I bring this up because I have seen as an outsider this effect in full force happen within the Portland Farmer's Market.  Writing a commentary like this is actually very hard for me because for almost 3 years, I literally depended on it for my survival, eating a nearly completely local diet. Without the market, this sort of activity would be nearly impossible, especially without a car and living in the middle of a city.

 5+ years ago, the market was small enough that you could walk it in the course of 15 minutes.  Most of the vendors were very small local farms (some traveling from as far as Corvallis), with only a few mid-size companies representing.  I don't know what the fees for vendors was back then, but I can only assume it was reasonable enough that small farms like River Run Farm could afford to participate and still turn a much-deserved profit.  Whatever the arrangement was, food was a little expensive, but very affordable.

Fast forward to today, and the Portland Farmer's Market seems wildly successful.  And, on the face of it, this seems like a great thing, right?  Local agriculture is flourishing!  The market is so busy you can hardly walk it!  There's not a parking spot within 8 blocks!  Well, the truth is that the market is becoming a victim of its own success.  It has now expanded to over twice its former size, so even more vendors can participate.  Unfortunately, it seems many of the new vendors don't seem to be small farms, but fairly well funded specialty food producers.  And, farms that are "collective" -- meaning they seem as though they represent just one farm, but actually represent dozens -- are more populous.  So the pioneering spirit of a market where small farms that have no other venues for their produce grows fainter by the year.

Even more disappointing than the diminishing diversity and scarcity of single-source farms is the increase in prices from virtually all vendors.  This translates into a different kind of scarcity -- people on no, low or fixed incomes who need a source for food that isn't delivered in a Monsanto company truck or served beneath golden arches.  The Farmer's Market has become a parking lot for late model luxury cars instead of a gathering of a diverse community seeking to diminish their ecological footprint and increase their vitality.  This gentrification process seems to plague community efforts where anything is sold at a reasonable cost.  And, why would farmers who can easily command these prices charge less?  People are readily willing and seemingly able to pay it, right?  So that's the American way -- buy low and sell high!  But, this is really counter to the stated goals of any community market that hopes to provide benefits to the community and not simply pad the pockets of the market owners and mid-size companies that capitalize on the cachet that comes with pretending to be a small farm at the market.  Organic Valley, whom I saw at the market last time I was there, is not a small farm, nor even a single farm at all.  The person at the booth may have never even touched a real cow in their lives.  Whereas 5 years ago, you could speak directly to a majority of people who had that morning dug and washed the carrots you were about to buy.   That is a tremendous loss.

My hope is that we can collectively reform markets in a way that allows for true diversity again.  Either that, or we call them as they are; not farmer's markets but outdoor super markets, no different than Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. 

Some meaningful changes would be for organizations that have funding available to subsidize market participation costs for small, single-source farms that couldn't afford to represent otherwise.  There should also be some form of subsidized discount for holders of Oregon Trail or WIC cards.  Otherwise, wealthy patrons would simply buy more cheap, great produce that they can already afford at the higher prices.

The truth is that the poor don't seem to have a voice at all in this discussion, and that is by design.  Portland has a veneer of Utopian cooperation, but is ultimately a segregated city with minorities and the working poor staying conveniently out of sight in North Portland, Hillsboro and sleeping in alleyways. Even pets are no longer welcome at the market.  I can only assume that was because irresponsible owners couldn't carry or control their pets.  It's always an easier path to make sweeping changes without regard to their consequences when the net effect is higher income or more customers.  An organization like the Portland Farmer's Market, however, should be held to a much higher standard of community responsibility.  Like it or not, community includes everyone:  people with no cars or homes, people who want to eat well but cannot otherwise afford it and so forth. 

As energy becomes more scarce and food production costs start their inexorable rise, this trend promises to continue.  And, if left unabated, will lead to a market where only the upper crust can afford to eat food that does not do more harm than good. 

The author of this Potlicker editorial is Jason DuMars, musician, writer, artist and activist.  He has been an active supporter and promoter of local, seasonal eating, community development and sustainable living.  In 2007 he was a leader in the groundbreaking "World Without Oil" alternate reality game and his contributions have been included in school curriculum associated with the project.   Jason is usually behind the camera for Potlicker posts.


Batter for shrimp or tempura veggies

 The batter can be added to other things but my preference is for shrimp and I leave the shell on.  I have had two bad injuries to my knees and was taking glucosamine to help me with my aches.  Glucosamine is just shrimp shells.  So if you eat shrimp and cook them over fire, grill or fry and you leave the shell on you are gaining a supplement without the need of supplementing.

There are some rules I follow with buying fish of all kinds.  I like local as can be and wild caught.  I also do not eat much of it.  The numbers are low for fish and I don't want to gorge on something that depletes quickly.  The market needs support for the people who are doing the most natural methods of catch, so it is good to familiarize yourself with these and not assume that your interests are being taken care of.

The shells are a hard thing for a lot of folks and it is easier to deal with when fried without batter or grilled the first time to see how you deal with it.  The shells are awesome for holding spices like cayenne and salt so a nice rub before and after cooking is wonderful.

These were washed with the tiny legs thrown out and then dipped by the tails into the batter.

The batter:  This will cover 20 shrimp or 2 cups of tempura vegetables CUT THICKLY 1/4 inch.

2 eggs
Just enough flour to make it thickened.
You can make it 50/50 flour and coconut.
A pinch of whatever spice or herb you want, but I think its best put on after the batter has a tendency to horde pockets of both making for irregular tasting bites.

Have a pan of 1/4 - 1/2 inch safflower or sunflower oil heating to a medium heat (No oil should smoke, this means it is not only too hot but has turned. You should not use olive oil for high heat frying, you want something with a higher heat tolerance like the ones mentioned) if little bubbles form around a toothpick then it is hot and ready or you can sacrifice a drip of batter to see.  If your batter is nice and thick then it will stay on the food and wait to be cooked while the other side cooks and this means you don't have to have a giant vat of oil popping.  A shallow amount will do and in about 2-4 minutes on each side you have a golden brown crisp thing.  Amazing.  These can drain on a towel or  be skewered and hung to drip onto a plate.

We all know fried food isn't the most healthy. The reasons are usually blamed on the fat.  Well the fat if you aren't gorging wouldn't be that much really and the issue I take up with most fried things is two things really 1. The kind of oil can be REALLY unhealthy. and 2. Frying anything with protein makes it something that is irresistible for obvious reasons and the not so obvious is that it is breaking down the protein which makes our brains go ga-ga for the stuff. Which in turn can makes us gorge or worse eat it often.  Like a marinade does for -- well, anything.  But I don't know anyone who dislikes at least SOMETHING fried.  Besides who fries things very often?  Its a lot of trouble.  I don't know anyone who has tempura every night. So not very often but very delicious is good.  And no matter what you can get out for "fast food" you can make at home and WAY healthier.  But we know this.  Now enjoy!